In recent years whenever Mrs Weir has enquired as to my preferred holiday destination I have usually offered up the Northamptonshire town of Corby as my first choice.

Perhaps unsurprisingly she has failed to take me up on the suggestion. And to be entirely honest I’ve not always been disappointed by that. After all according to the Office for National Statistics people in Corby “are the unhappiest in the country”, the people at MoneySuperMarket tell us it’s “the debt capital of Britain” and whilst it did manage to avoid the top spot it was still named as the third worst place in Britain for women to live by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

I’m sure the town does have a number of redeeming features, however the few hours I spent visiting for the first time last Monday did suggest that it’s a place that needs plenty of love and even greater quantities of money.

One particularly sad sight was what remained of a sculpture originally installed in the town back in 1974 called The Spirit of Corby. The (sadly unnamed) artist’s interpretation of “molten steel coiling down and flowing over limestone into water” (as a homage to the local steel industry) had been relocated having been hidden away in storage for many years, before then being “bent double by the severe weather in 1997” whilst sited on one of the town’s many roundabouts. When the spirit of the town is literally broken by the elements you have to sense that it’s probably not a good omen.

In fact, reading around what’s happened in the town in the intervening years does suggest that not everything progresses as smoothly as would be hoped. The Corby Cube for instance (which the Borough Council’s website insists is ‘iconic’) seems to have had a particularly problematic history given that it was only opened in 2010 – with various reports telling of its ‘dangerous design’, police investigations into the finances surrounding the funding of the building and a continuing story of ongoing repairs.

That said perhaps Corby’s future is brighter than I imagine, given that late last year it won the Great Town category in the 2018 Urbanism Awards, which commented that although only just over half-way through its thirty year growth plan the town is “an excellent example of what can be achieved by following through a shared vision and co-ordinated regeneration framework”. 

I hope that Corby’s star is in the ascendence and I’ll return at some point to investigate further (with or more probably without Mrs Weir) because if nothing else it’s probably the only town in Northampton I’ll visit that’s twinned with a Chinese megacity.

*With apologies to Katherine Jakeaways.


Eastern Magic

10Mar18

BLOG - Maxim

If you know me over and above a cursory viewing of this blog you’ll hopefully already be well aware of the work of Maxim Griffin.

Maxim, is one of those horribly talented individuals who appears to use the same tools as many others when creating his art, but somehow finishes up with an end result that’s so very much greater that the sum of its parts. Obviously this is largely down to the aforementioned talent, however there’s also some additional magic at work which I don’t begin to understand.

Earlier this year I bought a series of four small paintings from Maxim, however due to the frailties of Her Majesty’s postal service they only arrived this week. Quite where they disappeared to for just over a month is anyone’s guess. The fear that they’d been subsumed by the landscape between Maxim’s address and mine seemed quite likely for a while, however it’s grand to report that unlike King John’s lost treasure the four paintings are very much still with us.

BLOG - Maxim #bBLOG - Maxim #aBLOG - Maxim #c

Maxim’s work can be seen on his website over at maximpetergriffin.co.uk, in his regular column Solvitur ambulando in Lincolnshire Life magazine and is frequently featured over at Caught by the River.


Exhibitionism

26Feb18

Our recent days away in East Anglia’s second best county (sorry Suffolk, it’s a close run thing though) were mostly spent resting and recuperating, however some treasure hunting was permitted.

Amongst the treasure found was a copy of the Official Guide to the Brussels World Exhibition in 1958, a handsome thing full of intricate, coloured maps centering in and around the Atomium – one of the few (safe to say only) buildings depicting “nine iron atoms in the shape of the body-centred cubic unit cell of an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times”.

I’d assumed that having been born in the 1970s (albeit only just) I’d missed the opportunity to visit one of these events, however according to the ExpoMuseum website (who, in this respect, seem to be the fount of all knowledge) they’re still going strong with the last being held in Astana in Kazakhstan just last year.

Sadly the next one, due in 2020, will be located at the home of “ugly excess” (aka Dubai) – so maybe we’ll make the one after.


BLOG - Lavenham

Three days away with Mrs Weir, in “one of the most beautiful small towns in Britain”, which according to recent news was responsible for saving a 15-year-old Andrew Lloyd Webber from thoughts of suicide.

I’m not sure whether a blue plaque will appear to note the occasion, however given that there wasn’t anything noting the spot where a certain Mr John Hayes (aka Mr Howard Marks) was arrested back in 1980 it’s probably unlikely – such modern diversions would probably be unwelcome. 

Hoping to return (to Suffolk) later in the year when the weather allows a somewhat less monochromatic experience.


In an attempt to avoid filing away some of the more recent acquisitions to the ephemera archive here at Weir HQ quite so quickly, I’m going to try and get a little better at showing and telling. Partly as an aide-memoire to myself, and partly because some additions to the collection are well worth sharing.

First up is this set of New Traffic Signs cards.

Cigarette card sized, although produced by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, they detail (with further explaining text on the reverse) the new British traffic signs introduced in 1965 as a result of the work of The Worboys Committee and of course the designers responsible, Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert.

They’re an undeniably handsome collection of cards, that are still as (largely) relevant today as they were when produced over 50 years ago.



BLOG - Speechification #2

A few years ago there was a corner of the world wide web called Speechification.

According to those behind Speechification, it was “A blog of Radio 4. Not about Radio 4 but of it. We point to the bits we like, the bits you might have missed, the bits that someone might have sneakily recorded. And other bits of speech radio might find their way here too. Of course, one day this might turn into something else… maybe a new way of curating radio, or maybe it won’t.”

As an indicator of what they were pointing people (and in this instance specifically me) towards, a blogpost I wrote in 2008 states that they “have allowed me to pick up on an excellent interview with the Pet Shop Boys from The London Ear on Resonance FM, a half hour guide to Glitch presented by Paul Morley (somewhat incongruously broadcast on Radio 2) and a programme on Erics, the legendary venue in Liverpool (which was still very good despite being presented by Steve Lamacq)”.

Sadly it didn’t become a new way of curating radio as it’s now no longer transmitting.

With that being the case I’m going to try and pay homage to what the Speechification people were doing, and occasionally publish blogposts to remind myself of some of the great radio that I’ve listened to. And at the same time, signpost anyone who finds themselves here to programmes they may have missed. I don’t know how often I’ll publish these posts, that will be somewhat dependent on others, although I will try and persevere with them (this is the second post on the theme, so it might be a while before I celebrate Speechification Vol.100).

So here are three programmes, all from Radio 4 (albeit one via a repeat on Radio 4 Extra), and all I hope, firmly in the spirit of the original site.

The Doppler Effect with Charles Hazlewood
Any radio documentary that includes the use of “a steam train, a brass band and an internationally famous conductor” to recreate an audio experiment from 1845 is alright by me, although it does suggest that the careers advice I received as a young man was of a very poor quality because at no point in time was this kind of activity ever suggested as a way to pay the bills.

The Howling Terror Mystery
Another documentary, and to be specific another documentary on Victorian audio experiments. This time we find Alan Dein investigating the amplification experimentation of a Mr Horace Short out on the South Downs back in July 1900. Alan Dein’s involvement means that this was always going to be worth a listen as he’s responsible for so much great radio – coincidentally it was the original Speechification site that led me to his brilliant Don’t Hang Up programmes (which you really should investigate further if you have the time). And whilst not wholly relevant it’s perhaps worth noting that there currently appears to be no band operating under the name of The Howling Terror Mystery, which seems much remiss.

The Foghorn: A Celebration
And so, to a third piece of radio. A third piece of radio celebrating another Victorian audio invention. This time it’s the foghorn, invented in 1855 by Canadian inventor (albeit a Canadian born in Scotland) Robert Foulis. Quite what he’d have made of Jason Gorski’s (aka The Fogmaster) guerrilla foghorn concerts out in San Francisco Bay is anyone’s guess.

Finally, as you’ve got this far, here’s two additional podcast tips for you.

The first is The Boring Talks over at the BBC (I haven’t worked out whether the programmes are being broadcast on the radio at any point, and I don’t suppose that really matters). Presented by James Ward, the man responsible for the (hugely enjoyable) Boring conferences, the first two episodes see Steve Cross researching the end of the world using The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (it was a Thursday), and Tracy King trying to explain the self-defeating end point of algorithmic book pricing.  Given that both of the first two episodes reprise talks already given at previous Boring conferences there is no doubt plenty of really dull stuff still to come.

The second podcast is 41256 from Russell Davies, one of the original Speechification team – and as it happens the gentleman responsible for the (again hugely enjoyable) Interesting conferences – some days everything’s connected eh? It sells itself as a collection of “fragments of interesting radio/podcasts/sound” and has already proved of great worth in sending me off in unusual directions to investigate the source material further. It also clocks in at just under 4 minutes and 13 seconds, which means that even if you’re not tempted to invest the time to listen to any other of the recommendations you’ve surely got the time for this? 


I’m going to stop starting these increasingly rare posts with an apology for their lack of frequency, partly because that presupposes that there is anybody out there sitting patiently waiting, and partly because it wouldn’t really matter if there was.

So, what was intended as an opportunity to reflect on the weeks that were has now passed that point by some mark.

For what it’s worth said reflection seems to suggest that once again I spent much of my time staring out to the horizon, an obsession resulting from living in a land where not much interrupts the line that seperates the sky from the earth.

Horizon

Look, a mirage, like a round rim, a strange
Wizard’s masterpiece about us:
An old line that’s not there,
A boundary that never ends.

David Emrys James

(h/t to Maxim Griffin for the poem)